There are many underlying issues at Old Trafford that could be a factor in the poor start to the season they have had. Not all of them can be blamed on Erik Ten Hag, but each one only adds to the pressure facing the United coach. Let’s take a look at some of the problems and assess Ten Hag’s response to them.
Drama off the pitch
First of all, United’s off field problems continue to grow. Having shifted Greenwood off to Getafe, Ten Hag had no rest as it was straight into the next scandal, this time involving Ten Hag’s big signing last summer Anthony. He has been “removed” from the squad for the time being. Ex-United captain Harry Maguire still lingers around Carrington training ground, proving that United cannot remove deadwood as easy as Erik would like. And the latest scandal involves Erik Ten Hag publicly criticising Jason Sancho and the star taking to Social Media to respond. The latest rumour swirling is that several stars where involved in a bust up after the defeat to Brighton. Whilst Ten Hag can’t be held accountable for the off field drama, how he handles this crisis will be critical in defining his United era.
After a 4-0 thrashing by Liverpool two seasons ago United interim manager Ralf Rangnick said that up to 10 new players were needed for the club’s impending rebuild. Fast forward to the start of this season and 10 permanent signings (and plenty of loans) later, has Erik Ten Hag managed to get in the players to make a meaningful Impression? The simple answer is yes, they are tactically adapted to ETH’s style, but so far this season it is those same signings that are letting the side down. Varane has spent more time on the injury list than the pitch, Casemiro is showing his age, Onana has had a rocky start, Mount has been non-existent, and without a doubt the loan signings during Erik’s time have been abysmal. The sole blame cannot be placed with Ten Hag, with recruitment at United being notorious for failing to get the top target, and over spending for those that they do sign.
Performances and Results
The most disappointing part of Ten Hag’s second season has been the performances. Despite all the signings to suit his tactic style, this has not been translated into the pitch. The players are acting as individuals, both attacking sense and when defending. Even the only wins this season against Wolves and Forest came against the run of play. Small glimpses of good play have given fans hope, but this is often met with poor sloppy play. This is something that will define Erik Ten Hag’s era at United. They need to shake it off and start playing progressive, pressing football that ETH is known for.
When Ten Hag took over he threatened to unsettle the duo of Klopp and Pep at the top of the table, but it is the teams in the Championship that will be most worried at this point in time. The next few weeks will be pivotal for Erik and his group of players. With tricky away ties to Bayern and Burnley on the cards, before a double header at home with Crystal Palace, Erik Ten Hag will be lucky to make it to the next international break.